Leg 2, Day 18: Under 1,000 miles to go as Dongfeng makes gains on MAPFRE

The crews in the Volvo Ocean Race are munching the miles to Cape Town with the men and women on board Dongfeng consistently amongst the fastest as the heavy weather reaching phase of Leg 2 continues.

After setting a leg distance mileage record over 24 hours of 519 miles yesterday and climbing to second place, Charles Caudrelier and his team have overnight made significant gains on the leader, MAPFRE, whose advantage has been cut from 35 miles at one stage to 18.

Dongfeng Race Team are still working the weather front that has propelled them eastwards across the South Atlantic under grey skies and in cold conditions with spray regularly hosing down the boat from the bow as they blast forward on port tack. Carolijn Brouwer joked that the weather was reminding her of home. “Typical Dutch weather down here in the South Atlantic,” she Tweeted.

This morning the red and white Chinese boat was making nearly 20 knots of boatspeed in 18 knots of wind from the northwest and she had just over 950 miles to go, moving her ETA at the finish off Cape Town to Friday afternoon.

The game has been to stay with this weather system and try to avoid falling off the back of it with high pressure spreading in from behind the boats. Already the backmarkers are starting to lose ground on the leading group and Team AkzoNobel has suffered particularly badly in lighter winds and is now in sixth place, 138 miles astern of MAPFRE.

As the boats draw ever closer to South Africa the winds will ease and there could be another tricky phase before Table Mountain comes into sight. For Caudrelier and navigator Pascal Bidegorry this could be another opportunity to catch Xabi Fernandez and his Spanish team on MAPFRE but also one for the chasing boats to gain on Dongfeng.